Family Lessons 102: Buying Heaven

In August, 1502, my 17th great-grandfather, John Crosse, wrote his final will and testament; by the following month, it was executed, he being dead. Thankfully, some Victorian transcriber kindly located and translated it so I did not have to pore over awkwardly written medieval Latin. A few things are worthy of remark. Grandfather John wished to be buried at Liverpool’s parish church:

in the chancel of St. Nicholas of Liverpool before the image of the Blessed Mary;

It seems a dreadful pity that he placed such significance, and therefore vain hope, in the image of one who never could save him. Below, I observe how much money he gave to the church, doubtless hoping to curry enough favour with the divine to admit him to heaven:

…to be expended for maintenance of a priest to celebrate before the image of the Blessed Mary in the chapel of Liverpool, except the workshop which I have given to the maintenance of a chaplain celebrating in the chapel of St. Mary de Key ; to Wm. Bolton, vicar of Walton, a silver bowl…. to the church of St. Mary of Walton 26s. 8d. ; to the church of Sefton 20s. out of money in hands of the rector ; all other goods to my son John the chaplain, my wife Agnes and Wm. Bolton chaplain, to dispose for my soul;

His third son, John the Chaplain, was given ‘six silver spoons’ along with Agnes his second wife. Then we come to another John Crosse, son of Richard, his eldest. Like his uncle John, the dying patriarch had determined to settle on him a career in the Church:

John Crosse, son of Richard my heir, to have the farm of the tenement I have in the lordship of Walton from Wm. Lightwode for 4 years, on condition he be willing to take holy orders, also 20 shillings, a tunic and gown and a pair of ledrybuskynnus ; what I heretofore had and bought of Margaret Tailor

Evidently, Great Uncle John thought the offer of a four years’ rent, 20 shillings, a tunic and gown, and some leather buskins (shoes) enough to persuade him that the call of God was indeed upon his life. He went on to found the grammar school at Liverpool in 1522. Offering a son and grandson to the Church reminds me of Hannah offering the little Samuel to the Lord, though I suspect this was another attempt to ease his own soul’s passage through purgatory.

What one can give, and whereabouts one is buried, is of little relevance to one's soul's destination. One is either saved by Christ's work on the cross, and that alone, or one is not saved at all. 

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
simply to the cross I cling; 
naked, come to thee for dress; 
helpless, look to thee for grace; 
foul, I to the fountain fly; 
wash me, Saviour, or I die.

-Augustus Toplady

Top photo: The actual site of Cross Hall, now Crosshall Street, where the dying man once lived. Bottom photo: the (rebuilt) chancel where the dead man was buried.